Are you wondering if your wife has a compulsive buying disorder? Well, if she’s constantly scrolling through online shopping sites, nagging you to go to this store or that with her, and getting deliveries every day to a new package from another brand that you’ve never heard of, chances are you’re living with a compulsive shopper.
To get an idea on how to stop compulsive shopping or how to deal with living with an OCD spouse, read on.
My Wife Is A Compulsive Shopper
My OCD is writing and my wife Madhavi’s is shopping.
Last year, as we were walking down Hazratganj in Lucknow, Madhavi saw a sign which galvanized her into instant action: ‘Sari sale: up to 80% discount’.
I followed her into the huge shop, almost the size of a mini football field. As soon as we entered, I saw a sea of shoppers of the female variety unleashing a virtual tsunami of physical and oral calisthenics. Like a parched soul heading for the oasis, Madhavi dashed to the counter behind which was emblazoned the legend: 80% discount.
There was a virtual mountain of saris on the counter. The ladies were rummaging through the saris on three sides and on the fourth stood a hapless salesperson, who looked like the speaker of the Bihar assembly with the budget session in progress.
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Things you see when you’re married to someone with a compulsive buying disorder
After ten-odd minutes of ‘scanning’ the saris, Madhavi grabbed one and tugged. The sari, like Hanuman’s tail in Mahabharata, remained ‘unmoved’. I whispered to Madhavi, “You see the woman in the scandalous pink outfit. She is at the other end of the sari.”
Madhavi looked at her competitor and hesitated for a second. I whispered again, this time with a profound sense of urgency, “Have you forgotten that your records in discus, javelin and shotput during your college days still stand unbroken? Are you going to allow your reputation to be mauled during a shopping spree?”
Madhavi, a resolute look on her face, pulled with all her might and the result was instantaneous. The other woman lost her balance, the sari regained 50% of its freedom and Madhavi had notched up yet another feat – snatching a sari from the grasp of a competing buyer.
After this fiasco, I was left stunned by my wife’s intense need to shop and wondered what was the root cause for compulsive shopping. It turned out to be much deeper than I initially thought.
Not just a compulsive shopper, she’s great at bargaining too!
Madhavi is not merely a great shopper. In the arena of bargaining too, I have yet to see a more consummate professional whose dexterity has been proved beyond borders.
A few years ago we went on an African Safari in East Africa. On the second day, we were sitting in our safari jeep outside Amboseli National Park, waiting for the permits. I saw half a dozen Maasai women and a man running toward us from a settlement close by.
They were carrying necklaces, bangles, earrings and handicrafts. The man, who was the first to reach, pushed two statues of a Maasai couple through the window of the jeep at Madhavi.
The statues, made of wood, were attired in the traditional ‘Kanga’ dress of the Maasai and looked exotic.
“How much?” Madhavi asked.
“Okay, my price – 50 dollars for the pair.”
“10 dollars for the pair,” Madhavi, who regards herself as the best bargainer on Planet Earth, said without batting an eyelid. And to my surprise she was able to bring down the price to 10 dollars!
Adjusting to a foreign market
In India, when Madhavi bargains on the streets of Srinagar, the markets of Coimbatore, the bazaars of Jodhpur, or the lanes of Shillong, she starts at one-third the rate for fear of getting lynched. Here she was starting at one fifth, possibly finding safety in the fact that the locals wouldn’t string up a foreigner, that too a woman.
“45 for two,” the man calmly replied.
Just then I saw an old woman whose face had a lot of ‘character’.
I focused my camera on the lady and was about to click when my subject said, “Photo, one dollar.”
I was taken aback and our driver explained. “The Maasai people demand money for posing for photographs.”
Our vendor now had another handle to bargain. “Last price – 40 dollars and the photo of the old woman for free.”
Now this was getting interesting – a slice of cash and bit of barter!
Madhavi was not the one to give up; after all, she did have a compulsive spending disorder and calling her a shopaholic was an understatement. Finally, after 18 minutes of negotiation, she clinched the deal.
“18 dollars and the photo of the old woman for free,” Madhavi declared, her eyes shining as if she had just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on stilts!
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Perks of living with an OCD spouse
As a man, I love going shopping with Madhavi because it offers a new perspective. It offers tax-free entertainment and gives me loads of masala to indulge in leg pulling later. She shops for herself, the home and me. From shoelaces to other elements of sartorial elegance, every piece I wear has been bought by her. And that is the way it should be, since ours is a love marriage, and I believe her taste is better than mine!
The only time when I had initiated a shopping expedition was at Munich Airport. I saw this super awesome Sex Shop and grabbing Madhavi’s hand I said, “Come, let’s take a look.” I assumed that since she was a compulsive shopper she would end up indulging in some sex toys too.
She gave me the same look of disgust which she had directed at me one month, ten days, three hours and seven minutes into our marriage when I had suggested ‘69’.
Naturally, the expedition was abandoned before it even started and we went to the next shop and bought bright crimson nail polish for Madhavi and a pair of dull grey socks for me.
How to stop my wife from shopping?
Light-hearted banter of a couple where both partners seem to have adjusted well to each other’s ways is one thing, living with someone who struggles with serious compulsive buying disorder quite another. Compulsive shopping is a type of addiction where a person seeks gratification in buying new things. This disorder can often be the tip of the iceberg of deep psychological and emotional issues. It is often a reflection of issues such as insecurity, low self-esteem and low impulse control.
Your partner may struggle with finding an answer to how to stop being a compulsive shopper. You too may find yourself looking for a way to put an end to these impulse buying sprees. It may seem like an impossible task, but it can be done:
- Start slow: Encourage your partner to reduce the number of purchases week by week
- Keep track of money: Sit with your partner and go over credit card and bank statements to assess the actual spending
- Tabs on cash flow: Ask your partner to maintain tabs on how much cash they are actually spending
- Seek professional help: If your efforts as a couple are not yielding results, perhaps your partner’s triggers for compulsive shopping run deep. In that case, rather than get frustrated with them, reach out to a trained and experienced counselor for help.
With your consistent support, encouragement and the right coping techniques, they’ll not only acknowledge and accept the problem but also get over their need to be a compulsive shopper.
It might get frustrating but you just need to be patient. Help them understand that being a shopaholic is not healthy and with a little help they can reduce their compulsive need to constantly buy things they don’t need.
Yes, it most definitely can be. If you’re constantly thinking about that one item you just need to purchase and feel restless and uneasy if you don’t get it, you’re most likely suffering from this unique form of OCD.